Since I joined the internet community in 1996, it has been interesting to notice the improvements scammers have used in their techniques and communication to steal personal information, money, and goods. At the basic level, a scam email is fairly obvious: a black and white “form letter” from Nigeria, the United Kingdom, or the IRS telling you that you have won a kabillion dollars in the lottery, or received an inheritance, became a partner and are responsible for receiving said huge amount, or owe on taxes. These scammers take advantage of greed and fear, disorganization, and irresponsibility. The IRS will never contact you about your financial information by email! If you don’t know of a fabulously rich relative, you probably don’t have one.
A recent development with my Ebay listings was more sneaky. Usually scammers prefer the personal email system, but this one ventured to use the Ebay messages system. The legitimate-looking email said I had sold my item to a specific buyer who asked for my personal email and phone number. Now, if a buyer wants to email me, they can do that through Ebay, so why do they need my personal email? Hmmm. It turned out that when I checked my listing, it had not sold. Another red flag goes up in my mind. I wrote back, not including my information, but letting them know they could check out through PayPal as usual. Another request came back for my personal information. The message was:
Thanks for the swift response, just to let you know that am okay with the condition and price of this item, am ready for its purchase and my form of payment will be by sending you cashiers Check via USPS next day delivery.I’ll be responsible for the pick-up and the pick up money will be included in your payment to avoid delay and to enable pick up company to schedule an appropriate time for he pick-up at your location after check has been cashed,as i have other properties to be moved alongside with yours.
I would have really love to come for the viewing but due to my work frame that might not be possible,but if you have the pics,might want to have a good look. Please do get back to me with your full name and address including your cell and land number so i can make out payment.Regards.”
Several things caught my eye here:
- The scammer uses bad grammar (highlighted in blue).
- He tells you how to sell to him using his method of payment, not yours (highlighted in red).
- It is a risky form of payment, one that cannot be tracked through PayPal & Ebay and one that will have a hard time clearing, thus challenging your personal bank account holdings (highlighted in green).
- Excuses are made to the requirements of a face-to-face transaction. Sometimes it is work, sometimes a man at sea, sometimes a “much too busy being rich to do business with you” attitude (highlighted in pink).
- Pictures are asked for. My listings always have the maximum amount of pictures, but the average scammer asks for more, taking for granted that the seller is lazy (highlighted in purple).
- Scammers always ask for more personal information that is not necessary to the transaction. Be wary when they ask for your “full name”, cell, land line, address, bank account number, social security number, or PayPal password. Ebay can complete a transaction with the information you gave them on start up. No buyer needs more, especially if they do not intend to visit your home personally. Ebay also gives the necessary (but not more) information for a buyer to pick up the item after a legitimate checkout.
The website http://pianomart.com/blog/resources/scam-alerts is a good resource for information on the forged money order/cashier’s check scam. Pianomart also has a scammer of the week list.
In general, if you ever have to send money for information, or your bank account number, PayPal card number, bank card number, social security number or any personal information to get a customer, be advised it’s a scam. If threats ever come, or the “customer” demands anything, it’s a scam. Real business people value each others privacy and payment modes. Beware of emails telling you of an inheritance, a request to temporarily hold money, a lottery winning, “your good name is trashed”, “you should be worried” and other “news” that creates fear or greed. It’s not real. A plentiful resource (over 100 a day) of scam emails will be yours if you sign up for “work at home” “be your own boss”, “get healthy quick” and “make money fast” websites.
Sometimes, when I get a scam, I tell them they are using old scamming techniques and they need to lay off or I will report them to “the authorities” and “hunt them down”. You can report Ebay scammers to email@example.com and PayPal scammers to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report requests for personal information to email@example.com. Since scammers change email addresses like they change their socks, the chances of a regular person tracking them down is slim, however, reporting and a verbal strong arm has stopped scammers from practicing their lies unhampered.
My best securities are:
1. Avoid desperation and greed.
2. Treat others as I want to be treated. Do not try to take advantage of other people’s hard times.
3. Follow wise business procedures and rules. Do not let scammers tell you how to run your business.
4. Don’t rely on email alone for my information, double check emails with my listing information. Do not use links in emails to follow up on listing information.
5. Be diligent in listing plenty of pictures and information.
6. Contact authorities with scammer information.
7. Beware of bad grammar, capitalization and punctuation. Although it’s not a sure-fire sign of a scammer, it is truly chronic among scammers in general.